Sleep. It’s the first thing that gets sacrificed when life gets busy. And there’s no busier life than that of the average business owner.
We’re never on top of our workloads, and we never reach the end of our to-do lists. So we start staying up a little later, getting up a little earlier, and kidding ourselves that we can function perfectly well on four or five hours sleep a night.
And technically, we can. But there’s a big difference between functioning and thriving. And thriving is where we need to be. If you start every day feeling tired, it won’t be long before your business starts looking pretty tired as well.
So what can we do to:
- Get better quality sleep?
- Get more sleep than we’re currently getting?
I have ten tips to offer:
1. Your last job each day should be to schedule out the next day
When you know exactly what the next day holds you won’t waste vital mental energy trying to remember what you need to do tomorrow, or spend time wondering what’s in store for the next day. This helps reduce anxiety (which can be a big sleep smasher).
2. No coffee after 3pm, and no alcohol less than two hours before bedtime
Caffeine and alcohol affect our ability to both fall asleep and sleep deeply. Following these recommendations means you can enjoy both types of beverages while still getting a good night’s sleep.
3. While you’re there, watch when you’re eating too
Big meals too close to bedtime are also a bad idea. If your stomach feels full and uncomfortable, it will greatly impair your ability to fall asleep. Try to finish eating for the night at least two hours before going to bed.
4. No screens in the last hour before bedtime
I’ll admit this is a hard one to implement. But chances are it will lead to the biggest improvement in the quality of your sleep. Set up your evening routine so the last hour before bedtime is screen-free. Use that time to read (a real book), journal, make your lunch and set out your clothes for the next day. It’s also the perfect time for pottering.
5. No screens in the bedroom
Studies conclusively show that having your phone on the bedside table affects your sleep. So get rid of it. If it’s there because you use it as an alarm clock, get a real alarm clock instead. If it’s there so you can answer urgent calls during the night, put it just outside your bedroom door. You’ll still hear it out there.
6. Get the temperature right
If you’re too hot or too cold at night, you’ll find it difficult to get good quality sleep. An ambient temperature of 22-23 degrees Celsius is usually ideal. (You may need to raise or lower it a bit if the air is especially dry or humid.)
7. Exercise every day
Studies have shown that a single bout of moderately intense aerobic exercise both reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the length of sleep. You should be exercising for your mental and cardiovascular health every day anyway, but the fact it also helps you sleep better is a nice bonus.
8. Introduce white noise
If you’re a very light sleeper who gets woken by the faintest of noises, consider sleeping with a fan on or using a white noise generator.
9. Quieten your mind
If your anxious, racing mind won’t let you fall asleep, and you’ve tried all the non-pharmaceutical methods to combat it (meditation, mindfulness, journaling, etc.), then consider asking your doctor for some medication to help you sleep.
Anxiety is fuelled by a lack of sleep, and if you don’t break the cycle the problem will begin feeding on itself. Of course you don’t want to be relying on sleeping tablets or anxiety medication to fall asleep every night. But if a tablet can get you through those particularly rough nights where it’s 1am and you’re in full panic mode because you’re still not asleep, that’s pretty helpful.
10. Have a solid bedtime routine
If you can, go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning—even on weekends. Our bodies like rhythm. If you keep chopping and changing your sleep routine your body won’t know whether it’s coming or going, and will struggle to get the rest it needs to truly regenerate.